Trump Budget Would Cut NASA Funding, Cancel 5 Earth Science Missions & End Education Office

President Donald Trump released a proposed national budget today that would cut $561 million from NASA’s budget for fiscal year 2018, including closing NASA’s Education Office and canceling five Earth Science missions.

NASA would see its budget reduced from $19.6 billion this year to just below $19.1 billion. The space agency received just under $19.3 billion in fiscal year 2016.

The total budget is close to the $19.1 billion contained in a budget blueprint the Trump Administration released in March.

The table below shows that reductions are spread across the agency, with three exceptions.

FY 2018 PBR
Space Operations (ISS, Commercial Crew)$4.95 billion$4.74 billion-$210 million
Exploration (SLS, Orion, Ground Systems)$4.324 billion$3.934 billion-$390 million
Science$5.765 billion$5.712 billion-$53 million
Space Technology$686.5 million$678.6 million-$6.9 million
Aeronautics$660 million$624 million-$36 million
Education$100 million$37.3 million-$62.7 million
Safety, Security & Mission Assurance$2.769 billion$2.830 billion+61 million
Construction and Environmental Compliance and Restoration$360.7 million
$496.1 million+$136.4
Office of Inspector General$37.9 million$39.3 million+1.6 million
TOTALS: $19.653 billion $19.092 billion-$561 million

Exploration, which funds Orion, Space Launch System and related ground systems — would see a reduction of $390 million, which is unlikely to please Congress.

There would be a $210 million cut in Space Operations, which funds the International Space Station and Commercial Crew programs.

The administration cited “competing priorities” in terminating five science missions, including: Radiation Budget Instrument (RBI), PACE, OCO-3, DSCOVR Earth-viewing instruments, and CLARREO Pathfinder.

The five missions are an increase over the four missions the administration proposed canceling in a budget blueprint released several months ago. The RBI mission was added to the list.

This image shows the far side of the moon, illuminated by the sun, as it crosses between the DSCOVR spacecraft’s Earth Polychromatic Imaging Camera (EPIC) camera and telescope, and the Earth – one million miles away. (Credits: NASA/NOAA)

The DSCOVR satellite, which is a NOAA-NASA spacecraft parked at a spot 1 million miles from Earth, would continue to operate. NASA has said that shutting off the Earth-viewing instruments would save about $1.2 million per year.

The administration justified the canceled programs as follows:

The missions proposed for termination are lower-priority science missions that cannot be accommodated under constrained budgets. The proposed termination of these five missions restructures the NASA Earth science portfolio within the available budget in a way that causes the least impact to NASA’s ability to execute a balanced, comprehensive Earth science program that meets the highest priorities of the science community.

The RBI would have flown on a future weather satellite to make measurements of the Earth’s reflected sunlight and emitted thermal radiation. Similar instruments flying now and planned for near-term launch will continue to provide continuity for the data record. Additionally, the instrument has experienced cost growth and technical challenges, as technological innovations for RBI have proven more difficult than anticipated to implement.

DSCOVR, OCO-3, and PACE were not identified as high-priority NASA missions in the previous Earth Science Decadal Survey, which reflects the science community’s consensus views on Earth science space-borne priorities.

The DSCOVR Earth-viewing instruments (currently in space) provide images of the sunlit side of the Earth and measure the energy reflected and emitted from it. These instruments do not contribute to the core DSCOVR mission of providing measurements for space weather.

OCO-3 would have investigated the distribution of carbon dioxide on Earth. These measurements are currently being taken by NASA’s OCO-2 mission, and future measurements are planned by other nations.

The PACE mission would have provided atmospheric aerosol measurements and ocean color measurements, some of which are being provided by existing U.S. and European satellites.

The CLARREO Pathfinder mission would have demonstrated measurement technologies for a larger, more expensive, potential future mission focused on improving detection of climate trends. This demonstration mission is in the earliest stages of implementation and is eliminated to achieve cost savings.

NASA’s Education budget would be cut by $100 million to $37.3 million, a reduction of $62.7 million. The funding would pay for closing out the office and its programs.

The Trump Administration gave the following rationale for closing the office.

The Office of Education has experienced significant challenges in implementing a focused NASA-wide education strategy, including challenges in providing oversight and integration of Agency-wide education activities. Comprehensive evaluations of major programs have not been conducted. Additionally, while output data (e.g., number of people funded, number of papers generated, number of events supported) has been tracked, outcome-related data demonstrating program effectiveness has been insufficient to assess the impact of the overall Office of Education portfolio. Given these challenges and current fiscal constraints, the Budget proposes to terminate this office and proposes $37 million for close-out costs.

Some areas of the budget would see increases. The space agency would received an additional $136.4 million in its construction and environmental remediation and compliance budget. NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida suffered damage from a hurricane. Its Michoud facility in New Orleans was hit by a hurricane.

The Safety, Security and Mission Assurance budget — which pays for operations — would see a $61 million increase. NASA’s Office of Inspector General would see its budget rise by $1.6 million.